By on October 4, 2013

10 - 1974 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee MartinThe fourth-gen Olds Cutlass was one of the few bright spots for The General as the Malaise Era grew darker for Detroit. You could get T-tops, factory 8-track players, velour interiors in a wide range of bright colors, and who cared if engines were making less than one horse per two cubic inches? The Salon was the top-of-the-line Cutlass for ’74, with reclining bucket seats, radial tires, and other futuristic goodies. Here’s one that I spotted in a Denver self-service yard not long ago; nearly 40 years of personal luxury for this Olds.
08 - 1974 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee MartinThose body-colored hubcaps really added some class to the Cutlass Salon. The seat belt starter interlock, mandatory equipment in ’74, added annoyance.
02 - 1974 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee MartinOh yes, Whorehouse Red interior was a must on a cream-with-red-roof Cutlass in this era.
11 - 1974 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee MartinThis car visited Mexico early in its career.
05 - 1974 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee MartinI’m not going to look up the horsepower figures for what I’m guessing is an Olds 350, because they’ll just depress everybody.
04 - 1974 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee MartinInstead, imagine you’re cruising your brand-new Cutlass Salon with the A/C blowing cold and Grand Funk on the radio.


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62 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1974 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Cutlass was the Camry of the ’70s by holding the number one sales spot for what seemed like years. A pretty good car in it’s day, though this color combination is the worst

    • 0 avatar

      Ivory body, ivory hubcaps and a primary-color top & interior? Not good on a sled like that…I like to think it is better suited for something more elegant:

      http://www.fototime.com/C01ABF62A0640E0/orig.jpg

      I suspect the M-B 4.5 had more BHP as well. Of course, the price difference was significant.
      ;o]

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      And Toyota seems to have fallen into the same “whatever we build, they’ll buy” mindset with the latest Camry.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        What do you mean, exactly?

        My parents just got a new Camry Hybrid.

        The lines are pleasant – if not exciting, which is *not part of that market* – and the interior is very nice. It seems to go pretty well, too.

        The implication of an inferior product puzzles me; what’s supposed to be wrong with the Camry (for its market, which is not Ultimate Driving Machines)?

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      I agree, but my sister’s bronze ’73 with a shit brown vinyl top and shit brown interior was close. My mom had a ’73 in that (IMO) horrible misty blue color, with a white vinyl top, and the interior matched the paint. It was about as loaded up as a Cutlass went, but no T-tops. My mom’s car ran better, got better mileage, and was problem free, compared to my sister’s car, which ran badly, got about 2 MPG less, and was in the shop a lot. The differences puzzled us, as the VIN numbers showed they were probably built the same day. Even as bad as my sister’s car was, it didn’t kill her Cutlass love, it was it’s replacement, a turd brown ’79 to kill the Cutlass love. It made the ’73 look good. My sister has always made very bad color choices, even her present car is some awful beigey tan color. When she told me the dealer had to trade for a car in her color, I knew she had made another bad color choice. She’s closing in on 50 years of it. The worst was the pink with white interior Nissan she had about 10 years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      Cutlass was #1 for years. Sales volume of 500,000/ year in a 10-12M market was actually more like Camry and Accord combined +. Olds held 25% of the midsize segment, matching all the other GM midsizers combined, iircc.

      I asked a salesman at a Chevy-Pontiac-Olds-Buick dealer why Cutlass was so much more popular than the others. He said “They are just better.” They were the quality leader until supplanted by the Japanese.

  • avatar
    snakebit

    Of the intermediate coupes from GM for model year 1973 until 1977, it’s a little unbelievable that from the basic structure that they started from, you could get so much variation from beauty to beast. This is subjective, and I’m largely a Ford guy, but the Cutlass is so much nicer to look at. Of the group I’d pick the ’73 because the rear end design benefits from not having to meet more stringent bumper requirements, and it’s just prettier than the junkyard car. At the ‘beast’ end of the spectrum, I would put the Malibu, Laguna, and Monte Carlo. I know it’s not true, but it seems like Chevrolet had less time to deal with the new standards for 1973 cars. And, I was with Chevrolet from ’72 until ’75. And, while I don’t need sales figures to bear me out, I think I remember reading that Cutlass during that time was a sales leader. I particularly like the Salon models that had bucket seats and that nice chrome bent shift lever with 8 Ball-style knob, looked like one for a four speed, but was for the THM.

    • 0 avatar
      Firestorm 500

      The 1974 Laguna had a very nicely integrated front bumper. you could hardly tell it was energy-absorbing.

      The rear bumper did stick out some, though.

      • 0 avatar
        snakebit

        As I wrote before, I know I made what is a very subjective call about which 70’s GM intermediate coupe, to me, was the most successful. I’m very aware of the Laguna look, the general manager I worked with at Chevrolet preferred driving them two years in a row, so I was around one for a couple of years. It certainly looks better than the regular Malibu. Again, considering what all four brands were given to start with,to me, Oldsmobile came out on top, and 1973 was the high point.
        I should also point that if you’re particularly keen on the 70’s Laguna, Hemmings Classic Car magazine for November 2013 published a test drive of a 1973 model with swivel front bucket seats.

  • avatar
    99GT4.6

    Only 180 hp! These were dark days! (and about to get worse!)

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I purchased a ’75 Cutlass Supreme brand new and while I’ll grant the “Rocket 350″ didn’t have the huge horsepower of today’s equivalent engines, it still had enough to provide some decent kick, out accelerating a Dodge “Stinger” with the intake stuck out of the hood. Granted, it may have only been 200-250 horses, but a 302 Ford Windsor only put out 175 horses or so. That particular Cutlass had the Swivel Bucket Seats which I thought were neat at the time, but made getting in and out more difficult when you couldn’t open that big door all the way. To tell you the truth, I LIKED that car and hated to let it go when I was assigned overseas.

  • avatar
    italianstallion

    That’s Al Molinaro in the second commercial. Murray the cop.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    I think the 1974 Rocket 4 BBL 350’s put out around 180 horses which was far better than Ford 351’s and Chevy 350 2BBL engines of the same year. Despite not having a lot of HP the Olds V8’s poured of loads of torque and the 350 was one hell of a motor in it’s day.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    I knew someone that bought one of these in ’74, Black on black, bucket seats, t-roofs and fatory Olds ralleye wheels. Damn that thing was sharp!

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Love the color keyed hubcaps, I’ve also always loved the look of steel wheels painted body color with baby moon hubcaps and trim rings. That look to me always implied “I mean business.”

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Totally agree.

      Mercedes-Benz was masterful at effecting this in the ’60s and ’70s. You’d think something like the W113 would cry out for sportier looking wheels, but it looks fantastic with the color-matching hubcaps.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      I have body colored/chrome hubcaps on my 74 450SL roadster. I like them more than the MB alloy wheels of the day. Much easier to clean, and IMHO better looking.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Yep, I ran a car wash service during summer breaks in the early ’80s when I was on summer break from college, and a lot of my customers had Benzes with those alloy wheels. The nooks and crannies were just perfect for collecting brake dust.

        Too bad I didn’t have a power washer.

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          Nice ride, Felix Hoenikker.

          The “basket weave” alloys that came on ’82 (and earlier?) North American-spec BMWs were a pain in the butt too. I remember cleaning those with a toothbrush. They were replaced with “bottle cap” alloys in ’83, if I recall correctly.

  • avatar
    Juniper

    That interior is awful through todays eyes but it was hot in its day. Plus look at the condition of that 40 yr old velour.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      You cannot kill velour. Ten thousand years from now archeologists on a dig will find that seat and it will pretty much look the same

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        Oddly enough, their is actual science behind why velour never seems to die. It largely has to do with the friction coefficient and how our bodies never rub against the base fabric if the velour is thick enough. Kind of like how shag carpeting after a good vacuuming comes right back to life.

        It actually makes me wonder why cheap vehicles don’t use it for super life expectancy of seats…besides fashion reasons but I won’t lie, I prefer velour when I wear shorts vs pleather every time.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    ” and Man , does it handle ! ” ~ kidding , right ? .

    I’m still waiting for any6one else but me to remember the ads that touted the huge gas tanks , they said ” and with a 26 gallon gas tank you’ve got something better than economy , you’ve got _RANGE_ ” .

    Is this considered an ‘ Old man’s Car ‘ ? ’cause I like the looks of it

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      Nate,

      At 12 mpg you needed the big tank to get any range.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        I had both a ’73 Cutlass ‘S’ then later the ’75 Supreme, both with the 350 under the hood. When I bought the ‘S’ it had Bias-ply tires under it and it wallowed like a hog–though I admit the ride was decent. On the other hand, those tires were almost worn out (I bought it a year old) and I replaced them with a set of UniRoyal Tiger Paw steel-belted radials and what a huge difference they made in the handling! Sure, it was no great shakes in the handling department, but suddenly turns and lane changes became a lot crisper and it felt like it had some real grip on the road.

        The Supreme came stock with the steel radials and it handled better than some of you might want to admit–though I’ll also note that today’s cars are a lot stronger in the handling department.

        Horsepower over torque? Back then, Horsepower was everything and some people seem to think so still today–in all venues of automotive performance. However, what you really use is a balance of horsepower and torque–different balances for different purposes. That ’73 Ford I was talking about didn’t have the horsepower of a 302 Cleveland block, but it had the torque to drag a two-ton Gran Torino AND a 2.5-ton Prowler RV behind it through the ‘hills’ of the southeastern US–most notably the Great Smoky Mountains on those twisty two-lane highways. Not quickly, granted, but quick enough to make you worry about how well that trailer stayed on the road considering the serious lack of shoulders those highways had.

        By the way, I got 18mpg highway with both of them. Back then that was a pretty big deal.

    • 0 avatar
      millmech

      Remember- tricky Dicky Nixon decreed that gas stations would be closed on Sundays. Range counted.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Yes, it visited Mexico early in its career. And what a career it was, as it wore a groove in I-19, in and out of the Nogales border crossing.

    Early on, the guards rarely checked. We’d have the dash covered in powder by the time it was our turn to roll through, half our profits up our noses by 8:00 am in the morning. What did we know? We hadn’t slept, by then, in two days.

    Later, we put the huge trunk to use with live cargo – hundred bucks per head. We’ll drop you off two blocks up Grand Avenue at the 7/11. That gig kept us in Boleros with stacks of singles many a night.

    It all went to hell in the 80s — just say no, war on drugs, and all that. The dogs are what got us. Just showed up one day. Guards threw open the passenger door and in a second, the German shepherd was pawing away. Man takes out his SOG and slices through that fine red upholstery and right then and there, the good times were over.

    Car went to impound, sold at government auction. Always wondered where that ride would turn up.

    Me? I spent a few years in the Tucson U.S. Penitentiary. Out in 15 for good behavior.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    This is your standard post-estate sale trade-in.

    I bet the trip to Club Med in ’75 was awesome. That was before Cancun sucked.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Looks pretty clean inside – someone cared for this one! The cutlass was always below the 88 and 98, right? And the Buick version woulda been the Skylark?

    • 0 avatar
      minivanman

      Buick’s version was the Century. The Skylark was one size smaller.

      • 0 avatar
        Carlson Fan

        Yep the Skylark, Nova, Omega, and Ventura were all the same car and some of the best examples of the worst badge engineering done by GM. My first car was a ’78 Buick Skylark with a 231 V6. It was the epitomy of cars put out by Detroit that sent people running to the imports. Everytime I drove that POS it seemed to break down. Nothing worked on it like it should have. To this day I still can’t believe the company that engineered and built that crummy Buick also engineered and built my ’81 Olds Cutlass Supreme.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        Century and Regal paralleled Cutlass and Cutlass Supreme/Salon. Salon was a package released in ’73, if memory serves, and was compared to a much more expensive MB model of similar size with a good report for the Olds. Salons never accounted for more than a couple % of Cutlass production, iirc.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    And then came FWD across all segments and it all went downhill from there!

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Someone rip that Olds 350 out! Please! If it doesn’t have gaping holes in the block, it’s worth saving!

    And save the wheel covers, they would look great on a 88 or 98.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Unbelievable that this car got junked, in that kind of condition. Good grief…

  • avatar
    Garak

    That car looks way too clean to go to the crusher – I’ve seen cars in much worse condition shipped to Europe for restoration or modification. That’d make a nice engine swap candidate with its huge engine bay.

    • 0 avatar
      CougarXR7

      When you see a car like this, in this condition, sitting in a junkyard, there’s the normal reasons-

      Owner dies and the family just wants it gone.

      Driver gets busted for DUI or expired license and can’t get it out of impound.

      Car develops a major mechanical issue that the owner can’t or won’t pay to fix.

  • avatar
    SixDucks

    One of the best from a bad era. I believe in ’73 and ’74 the Olds 455 was still an option, but the Rocket 350 did a decent job hauling this 3,800 lbs. full framed ‘mid-sizer’ around. Handling was indeed not bad, and as I remember there was a handling package for these cars that worked quite well. These cars got a handsome restyle in ’76 with quad square headlights and Old’s distictive ‘waterfall’ grille. Also that year the Olds 403 became an option. Not a bad engine. These cars were so popular that Lansing couldn’t build enough 350’s for them, so Chevy 350’s were substitued, a move GM would later regret.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      The 455 was an option thru the ’76 model year. We could only build about 1.2 million V8s running the Olds engine plant 24/7. Olds was the lead Division for emissions control and the only 350 V8 to be certified for California. That made it the only choice for Buicks, Pontiacs and Chevrolets, as well as Oldsmobiles in the state. This led Olds to use some Chevy V8s to meet sales demand. After we ran out of V8 capacity, we also used up 4 barrel carburetor capacity on the Chevy and eventually had to substitute 2 barrels for the end of the run. It wasn’t the first for cross divisional engine usage. For that matter, Fords, Mercurys and Lincolns used the same engines, as was the case for Chrysler brands as well. Olds had built such a reputation for the “Rocket V8″ that the relative handful of Chevy-mobiles were somewhat of a fiasco. I was a District Service Manager at the time and we had to make sure every dealer had a sign prominently displayed in the showroom explaining which Division operated the engine plants for the various engines available in Olds models.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Instead, imagine you’re cruising your brand-new Cutlass Salon with the A/C blowing cold and Grand Funk on the radio.

    Eh 1974 more likely Watergate and a presidential resignation. I think backward styling cause 1975 sees Seville. And well you know how classy & better proportioned that smallest, priceyst was. Buckets more welds than a Nova and twilight sentinel & trumpet horns atop those spoked wheels. I would have made a Cut above Salon for William Conrad or Seville.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    Am I just seeing things, or is that a manual shifter and a small brake pedal…to make room for an equally small clutch pedal?

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      As I wrote earlier, this was one of the things I liked about the Cutlass, the shifter for the TurboHydramatic that looked like one for a manual transmission. To be fair, I don’t know if a manual was even offered on the Cutlass, but odds are this one came with automatic.

  • avatar
    west-coaster

    One interesting (and often overlooked) powertrain option on this generation of Cutlass was a 260 V8 with a 5-speed manual transmission. Yes, a manual. (There was one on eBay recently which jogged my memory.)

    Along with that fender emblem with the international flags, I guess the obscure engine/trans combo was supposed to relay some degree of “European-ness.” And obviously, Detroit was trying anything to bump up fuel economy figures then.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Back in college the Cutlass, Monte Carlo and Trans Am were the Holy Trinity of campus cars. I think the ’76-’77 were the sharpest looking Cutlasses (and best selling autos period IIRC), although you could deal more on the nearly identical Buick Regal.

    Personally I always thought the ’75 Lemans was the looker of the Collonades, with the round headlights and taillights draping over the fender.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    The whole Cutlass line, including 4-doors and wagons, was #1 selling car in 1976. Impala/Caprice [some BelAirs] still was #1 until 1975, but then made a comeback for 1977, when the downsized B body was a hit, contrary to doomsday predictions.

    73-77 Chevelle line didn’t sell as well as Olds, Monte Carlo took off and was #2 car at Chevy.

    180 hp v8’s were common for mid 70’s. But before getting all “depressed”, the 1987-93 Mustang 5.0 had “only” 200-225 hp, but is considered the ‘return of American performance cars’.

  • avatar
    swilliams41

    One of my high school buddies dad bought a Cutlass Salon. Chuck drove that car like he stole it! Nice car and I remember the reclining buckets which were rare on American cars of that era. It also had good power from the 350. Most noticeable though was the ride and drive. It was quiet, comfortable and handled decently. I remember the Pontiac Grand Am of the time being slightly firmer but the Cutlass had better interior materials. Both were big improvements over other mid-size’s of the era.

    • 0 avatar
      bomberpete

      I have a Motor Trend from Jan. 1974 that compares this car with 350 bl. V-8 to other “upscale” mid-sized Detroit cars: a Ford Gran Torino Brougham with a 460, an AMC Matador coupe with a 401, Chevy Malibu Classic with 400 2bbl., and Buick Regal with the “Kojak” 455 V-8. They couldn’t get a Dodge Charger because of a Chrysler strike.

      In typical M/T fashion, there were no winners but the Cutlass Salon got the highest marks for handling and balance of power/fuel economy.

      The magazine itself is in good condition and I’ll sell it for $8.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        That seems like a lopsided comparison…the Torino and Buick would be heavier than the others because of their engines. And thus would naturally handle and perform a bit worse.

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    NoGoYo — And you’d be absolutely right! Tire-smoking torque regardless, Kojak and Starsky & Hutch didn’t really have such great performance rides.

    Matador won acceleration because it was lightest. In handling and fuel economy, Gran Torino 460 and Regal 455 were the worst plowers of a very piggy lot. They were only a bit faster than the more “agile” Cutlass Salon 350.

    But to paraphrase what J.J. Gittes’ associate Walsh said at the end of “Chinatown” — coincidentally released in 1974 — “forget it Jake, it’s Motor Trend.”

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      If I remember correctly, the 460 weighed something like 800 to 900 pounds…which must mean that you can get a Lincoln Mark IV under 5k by pulling its engine out. =P

      But yeah, the big-blocks were not massively more powerful than the small-blocks but weighed a lot more, it was easy to see why most people in, say, 1976 went 350 in their Cutlasses.


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